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My writing partner Erin Dougherty recently returned from California where she attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference (June 9th – June 14th), which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. Writers such as Clive Cussler, Eudora Welty, and Charles Schulz have spoken there in the past. This year, Fanny Flagg, the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, spoke on the last night of the conference.

Fanny Flagg photo courtesy of Suze Lanier

She had an anecdote about the time that she submitted a short story at the conference years ago, and it won the first prize. Flagg had always wanted to be a writer but felt nervous about writing because of her dyslexia, so, to cover up that up, she wrote her short story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl who couldn’t spell. This made her feel a bit of a fraud though because the judges were enamoured of her creativity.

Ray Bradbury who died on June 5th this year had been a speaker there for 38 years. The night he died, Venus transited the Sun, which will not happen again for 105 years – a fitting celestial response to a writer who was interested in space travel. Erin met Bradbury in 1998 when she first attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference straight out of college. She remembers him giving young writers advice, telling writers NOT to go on the internet because people there don’t know how to spell (we hope to prove him wrong on this point) and not to watch the nightly news because it is too depressing. One memory that makes Erin smile when thinking about Bradbury stems from his passion for metaphors: “oh, the metaphors,” he would say, dreamily staring off into space.

Erin plans to introduce some of the writers that she met this year on this blog in future entries, the first being Dorothy Allison who wrote Bastard Out of Carolina and who spoke on the first night of the conference, seemingly channeling Tennessee Williams.

– Eleni Anastasiou, June 26th 2012